PSALMS: The Cursings (Part 2) by C. S. Lewis

November 20, 2018

From Reflections on the Psalms Then another thought occurred which led me in an unexpected, and at first unwelcome, direction.  The reaction of the psalmists to injury, though profoundly natural, is profoundly wrong.  One may try to excuse it on the ground that they were not Christians and knew no better.  But there are two reasons why this defense, though it will go some way, will not go very far. The first is that within Judaism itself the corrective to this natural reaction already existed.  “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart…thou shalt not avenge or bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” says Leviticus, (19:17, 18).  In Exodus we read, “If thou seest [...]

PSALMS: The Cursings (Part 1) by C. S. Lewis

November 13, 2018

From Reflections on the Psalms In some of the psalms the spirit of hatred which strikes us in the face is like the heat from a furnace mouth.  In others the same spirit ceases to be frightful only by becoming (to a modern mind) almost comic in its naïvety. Examples of the first can be found all over the Psalter, but perhaps the worst is in 109.  The poet prays that an ungodly man may rule over his enemy and that “Satan” may stand at his right hand, (v. 5).  This probably does not mean what a Christian reader naturally supposes.  The “Satan” is an accuser, perhaps an informer.  When the enemy is tried, let him be convicted and sentenced, “and let his prayer be turned into sin,” (v. 6).  This again means, I think, not his [...]

PSALMS: “Judgment” In The Psalms (Part 2) by C. S. Lewis

November 6, 2018

From Reflections on the Psalms I think there are very good reasons for regarding the Christian picture of God’s judgment as far more profound and far safer for our souls than the Jewish.  But this does not mean that the Jewish conception must simply be thrown away.  I, at least, believe I can still get a good deal of nourishment out of it. It supplements the Christian picture in one important way.  For what alarms us in the Christian picture is the infinite purity of the standard against which our actions will be judged.  But then we know that none of us will ever come up to that standard.  We are all in the same boat.  We must all pin our hopes on the mercy of God and the work of Christ, not on our own goodness.  Now the Jewish [...]

PSALMS: “Judgment” In The Psalms (Part 1) by C. S. Lewis

October 30, 2018

From Reflections on the Psalms If there is any thought at which a Christian trembles it is the thought of God’s “judgment.”  The “Day” of Judgment is “that day of wrath, that dreadful day.”  We pray for God to deliver us “in the hour of death and at the Day of Judgment.”  Christian art and literature for centuries have depicted its terrors.  This note in Christianity certainly goes back to the teaching of Our Lord himself; especially to the terrible Parable of the Sheep and the Goats.  This can leave no conscience untouched, for in it the “goats” are condemned entirely for their sins of omission; as if to make us fairly sure that the heaviest charge against each of us turns not upon the things he has done but on [...]

GOD 101: The Court System Of Heaven

December 16, 2017

There are things that people have been told about God and judging. And there are things that people have not been told about God and judging. Lots of things, actually. In a sense, the justice system of God is three-fold. Just like America. Except not. Let’s start with God, the Father. From almost the very beginning, quite soon after creation is accomplished, God, the Father, becomes a judge of his own creation. He finds guilt.  He judges.  He sentences. And his sentence on the inhabitants of Eden is carried out. After that, pretty much any time you turn around, God is judging. Somebody.  Or something. The Flood says it all. We were found guilty.  We were judged.  We were sentenced. So there we have the complete picture of [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: All Come Together Before God by Phillips Brooks

December 10, 2016

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne. (Revelation 20:12) “The dead, small and great,” Saint John says that he saw standing before God.  In that great judgment day, another truth is that the difference of sizes among human lives, of which we make so much, passes away, and all human beings, in simple virtue of their human quality, are called to face the everlasting righteousness.  The child and the greybeard, the scholar and the boor, however their lives may have been separated here, they come together there.  It is upon the moral ground that the most separated souls must always meet.  Upon the child and the philosopher alike rests the common obligation not to lie, but to tell the truth.  The [...]

POETRY: Judgment, by Thomas Celano

December 7, 2016

Day of wrath! O day of mourning! See fulfilled the prophets’ warning, Heaven and Earth in ashes burning. O what fear man’s bosom rendeth When from Heaven the Judge descendeth On whose sentence all dependeth! Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth; Through Earth’s sepulchers it ringeth; All before the throne it bringeth. Death is struck, and nature quaking, All creation is awaking, To its Judge an answer making. Lo! The book exactly worded, Wherein all hath been recorded: Thence shall judgment be awarded. When the Judge his seat attaineth And each hidden deed arraigneth, Nothing unavenged [...]

SPIRITUAL FORMATION: Keep Water Over The Door Of My Lips by Lois M. Farag

March 7, 2015

From Balance of the Heart The Tongue, Slander, Silence, and Judgment Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. (Psalm 141:3) James in his epistle discusses the threat of the tongue.  The tongue is as treacherous as a fire in a forest: once the fire ignites it takes a long time to control, and even if it is controlled, there is always damage.  James also says that the tongue “stains the whole body.”  The stain is a sign that the body has become impure.  The tongue is hard to control or “tame” and is “a restless evil full of deadly poison.”  What is even worse, the tongue curses “those who are made in the likeness of God.”  This is a very scary depiction of [...]

JESUS: A Hierarchy Of Sin

August 6, 2013

Go and sin no more.  His words are gentle, understanding.  He walks with these people.  He eats with these people.  These people sin.  And he loves them. He’s here to save them. The righteous don’t need my help.  Just these poor, sweet sinners. His friends:  Prostitutes.  Tax collectors.  Adulterers.  Wife beaters.  Thieves.  Even murderers who hang next to him. There is a commonness, an earthiness to the sins these people commit.  Sins of the flesh.  Sins of greed.  Sins of need and want. But there’s a line in the work of salvation of Jesus.  Or perhaps there is more than one line, or the line just has varying depths and widths. Here are the common folk. And here are the hypocrites.  The fools.    The [...]

LENTEN FIRE: Fifth Sunday Of Lent

March 18, 2013

From Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers  Enduring temptation A brother asked Abba Poemen, “Why is it that my heart despairs if a little suffering gets hold of me?” The old man said to him, “Do we not admire how Joseph, just a little boy in Egypt, the land of idolaters, endured temptation? (Genesis 39-41)  And God glorified him in the end.  We also see that Job did not stop holding fast to God to the end and the Enemy was unable to shake his faith.” A golden cistern and a leper A priest visited an anchorite, celebrating for him the sacrifice of the holy mysteries.  But another person came to the anchorite and made slanderous accusations to him that the priest was a sinner. [...]

LENTEN FIRE: Thursday Of The Fourth Week Of Lent

March 15, 2013

From Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers  The reason we do not make progress An old man said, “The reason we do not make progress is because we do not know our own capacities and do not have patient endurance for the work we have undertaken.  No, we want to acquire virtue painlessly.” A sinner, a pillar of fire It was said of Abba Mark of Egypt that he lived thirty years without leaving his cell: the priest would regularly come and celebrate Holy Communion for him.  When the Devil saw the man’s virtuous endurance, he hatched a plot to tempt him and got a demoniac to go to the old man under the pretext of asking for his prayers.  Before the old man could say anything, the possessed [...]

LENTEN FIRE: Thursday Of The Third Week Of Lent

March 8, 2013

From Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers  Concealing and revealing A brother asked Abba Poemen, “If I see my brother’s fault, is it good to conceal it?” The old man said, “At the very moment we conceal our brother’s fault God also hides our own, and at the very moment we reveal our brother’s fault, God also reveals ours.” Sinning in thought and sinning in deed It was reported that two brothers went into a village where they had been sent, and the demon attacked the older one five times in order to make him sin.  And he contended with the attacks by saying a prayer each hour.  They returned to their father and his face was troubled and he asked his father’s [...]

LENTEN FIRE: Friday Of The Second Week Of Lent

March 2, 2013

From Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers What is sufficient Question: Is it good to possess two tunics? (Matthew 10:10; Luke 9:3) Answer: To possess two tunics and not to possess evil that stains the whole body is a good thing, for the soul has no need of evil, but the body needs clothing.  Since we have the things we need and they’re sufficient, we are satisfied with them. (Proverbs 30:8 and 1 Timothy 6:8) You can’t go inside Abba Isaac of Thebes visited a cenobium and saw a brother doing wrong and condemned him.  When he left for the desert, an angel of the Lord came and stood in front of the door to his cell and said, “I will not let you go inside.” Abba Isaac importuned him, [...]

LENTEN FIRE: Tuesday Of The First Week Of Lent

February 20, 2013

From Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers  Stones in the mouth It was said about Abba Agathon that for three years he placed a stone in his mouth until he had succeeded in keeping quiet. The chickpea in the road Abba Agathon was walking one time with his disciples.  One of them, finding a small green chickpea in the road, said to the old man, “Father, may I take it?” The old man stared at him in amazement and said, “And did you put it there?” The brother said to him, “No.” The old man said, “Why, then, do you wish to take something that you did not put there?” Make your thoughts like a prisoner’s thoughts A brother asked Abba Ammonas, “Tell me a [...]

HEALING: Forgiveness And Judgment

February 19, 2013

It isn’t very often that accomplishing the process of forgiveness doesn’t wind up feeling like a waste. Because after it is all over, after we’ve cried and wrung our hands, pulled at our hair and tried to look the other way; after we’ve said, enough is enough, I don’t hold it against you any longer, it’s too much work to be this angry at you; after all that, we’re still left with the shadow of judgment. Yes, you did this to me. Yes, I have forgiven you.  I really have. But I now see you for who you are.  I see what you can do to me. What then? We want forgiveness to be this complete washing out of our minds, our mouths, our hearts, our souls.  We expect forgiveness to heal our relationship with [...]

LENTEN FIRE: Monday Of The First Week Of Lent

February 19, 2013

From Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers  A rag on his chest It was said about Abba Arsenius that his whole life while sitting and working with his hands he would have a rag on his chest on account of the tears that fell from his eyes. Abba Macarius and the skull It is said about Abba Macarius the Great that when he was out walking in the desert he found the skull of a dead person thrown on the ground.  After moving it with his palm-tree staff, the old man said, “Who are you?  Answer me.” The skull said to him, “I was high priest of the pagans who lived here.  And you – why, you’re Macarius the Spiritbearer!  Whenever you take pity on those being punished and pray for them, [...]

LENTEN FIRE: Thursday After Ash Wednesday

February 15, 2013

From Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers  The Mirror of Sins Abba Macarius said: If you look into a mirror to observe yourself, it will inform you of your beauty or of your ugliness.  You cannot hide anything from it nor will it lie to you in any way; no, it produces a lifelike image and reflects back your own image and reproduces all your features and characteristics: if you smile, you see what sort of a smile it is; it will show you that your black hair is black and your gray hair is gray and it will real you to yourself and show you what you really look like. It will be the same at the place of judgment, from which one cannot flee.  There it is not a mirror made by human hands but deeds laid bare that [...]

LENTEN FIRE: Ash Wednesday

February 14, 2013

From Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers  On Not Judging Others A brother did wrong one time at Scetis and when a council was called about it, they sent for Abba Moses, but he refused to come.  So the priest sent someone to him, saying, “Come, the community is waiting for you.” He got up and went and, picking up a large basket with a hole in the bottom, filled it with sand, and carried it with him.  When he arrived at the meeting, those who came out to meet him said to him, “What’s this, father?” The old man said, “My sins trickle out behind me and I do not see them and yet I have come today to judge someone else’s sins.” When they heard this, they did not [...]

POETRY: Twice, by Christina Rossetti

December 28, 2012

I took my heart in my hand, (O my love, O my love), I said: Let me fall or stand, Let me live or die, But this once hear me speak (O my love, O my love)— Yet a woman’s words are weak; You should speak, not I. You took my heart in your hand With a friendly smile, With a critical eye you scann’d, Then set it down, And said: “It is still unripe, Better wait awhile; Wait while the skylarks pipe, Till the corn grows brown.” As you set it down it broke— Broke, but I did not wince; I smiled at the speech you spoke, At your judgment I heard: But I have not often smiled Since then, nor question’d since, Nor cared for cornflowers wild, Nor sung with the singing bird. I take my heart in my hand, O my God, O my God, My broken heart in my [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: The Coming Of Jesus In Our Midst by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

December 21, 2012

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20) When early Christianity spoke of the return of the Lord Jesus, they thought of a great day of judgment.  Even though this thought may appear to us to be so unlike Christmas, it is original Christianity and to be taken extremely seriously.  When we hear Jesus knocking, our conscience first of all pricks us: Are we rightly prepared?  Is our heart capable of becoming God’s dwelling place?  Thus Advent becomes a time of self-examination.  “Put the desires of your heart in order, O human beings!”  (Valentin Thilo), as the old song sings.  It is very remarkable that we face the [...]

ADVENT MEDITATION: The Penitential Season by William Stringfellow

December 7, 2012

We live now, in the United States, in a culture so profoundly pagan that Advent is no longer really noticed, much less observed.  The commercial acceleration of seasons, whereby the promotion of Christmas begins even before there is an opportunity to enjoy Halloween, is superficially, a reason for the vanishment of Advent.  But a more significant cause is that the churches have become so utterly secularized that they no longer remember the topic of Advent.  This situation cannot be blamed merely upon the electronic preachers and talkers, or the other assorted peddlers of religion that so clutter the ethos of this society, any more than it can be said, simplistically, to be mainly the fault of American merchandising and consumerism. [...]

GOD 101: Man’s Massive Misunderstanding Of Judgment

November 27, 2012

Throughout my life I have heard the most amazing things said about God slip out of people’s mouths.  Christian people.  And I have had to stop myself quite a few times from saying, um, what are you talking about? what God are you describing?  have you ever heard of Jesus? But even when I’ve slipped one of those questions (in much more polite form) into a conversation, the response has pretty much always been, what? no! what I am saying is right! and true! And I have wondered.  And wondered.  And wondered. Where do people get such ideas? They get them from their bodies, of course. We as mortal, vulnerable, humbly created, frail, and at times feeble humans, without really knowing it, always put our bodies first in our [...]